Procrastination Is Fear of… What?

procrastinationDo you procrastinate on projects?

Do you put off tasks that can be done quickly, but are tedious?

Do you avoid certain activities for as long as possible (making phone calls, for instance) because your heart rate increases at the thought of doing them?

I recently saw the phrase “procrastination is fear.” It resonates with me.

Why do we put off things we know need to be done for our business – or to better ourselves?

Fear of success? Fear of no one liking what we do? Fear of rejection after trying? Fear that our goal (making it ‘perfect’) will fall short?

Do you procrastinate on making decisions? If you delay long enough, the decision will be made for you (in most cases), so, you actually do end up making a decision — to let time determine the answer for you.

I can procrastinate on blog posts because I want to be like Goldilocks and have everything “just right.” I fear the posts may be too short or too long and miss the mark.

I can procrastinate on making phone calls because they aren’t always pleasant or give positive results. And usually after dialing the number, I end up in voicemail and then fear my message isn’t clear enough.

Procrastination simply delays what needs to be done, so why not do it and be done with it? There’s a lot of psychology behind the topic of procrastination – such as, it’s something we learn to do. Here’s an article from Psychology Today that lists Ten Things to Know about procrastination.

If you know you procrastinate, you can find ways to push through it. Priority lists, to do lists, delegation, or perhaps adopting a ‘just do it’ attitude for a short spurt to see what happens (maybe you’ll like being productive!). Set a timer and make accomplishing something a challenge or a race. (The timer has become a great tool for me.)

How do you fight procrastination?

lisajjacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies and individuals tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

An Unexpected Gift

My husband told me earlier this week, unexpectedly, that he could watch my son on Friday morning so I can go to an appointment and then he said he would stay home and I could take the whole day to work on my writing and my business.

My plan is to spend the day writing and creating some content for my website. I have a couple of projects that need a few hours of uninterrupted time to really get some momentum going.

You’d think I’d be excited and energized. A whole day to myself to do whatever I want!


The closer the day gets, the more resistance I feel.

When I noticed I was feeling resistance (at first I just felt irritated and thought it was because of external circumstances) I knew I needed to look at my thoughts.

I believe our thoughts cause our feelings, which in turn cause our actions and, therefore, our results.

So, what have I been thinking about this gift of a day?

  • It’s not enough time to get anything real done.
  • What if nothing comes and I end up with a blank page?
  • What if I waste the day?
  • What am I going to write?

All of my questions are just thoughts in disguise: What if nothing comes and I end up with a blank page? = Nothing will come and I’ll end up with a blank page.

All of these thoughts cause me to feel anxious, which leads me to procrastinate, which will result in a blank page at the end of the day. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now that I’m aware of my thoughts, I can question them. None of them are The Truth, they are just thoughts.

Now that I’m aware of my thoughts, I can respond to them in a calm manner:

  • Whatever I get done is what I need to get done.
  • You will get words on the page and that’s the goal.
  • You won’t waste the day; you will live it. That’s all that’s required.
  • You know what you need to write.

I can reassure the part of myself that generates all these negative thoughts and choose to focus on thoughts generated in another part of myself: All is well.

When I look at the day ahead and the resistance I feel, I realize I may need to take myself on a little Artist Date, rather than just sit at a desk all day. Maybe I’ll run or go to yoga, as physical exercise always clears my mind.

Once I’ve worked through all my negative thoughts, I realize I’m not feeling irritated, or resistant, any longer. I can see the day ahead for what it is: A true gift.

Now I feel energized and excited, which I know will help me get words on the page and make progress on my projects.

What are you thinking about your writing time?

**For all Hudson area NaNoWriMo participants: I’ll be hosting another Write-In at Rodger’s Memorial Library on the evening of November 25, 2014. Come join your fellow writers as we crank out the words! For more information, click here.**

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, family physician, mother and stepmother. The more I examine my thoughts, the more words I get on the page.





Professional Procrastinator Club – Let’s Reduce the Membership

Let’s start with a show of hands.

How many of you will admit (as I do) to being a professional procrastinator? Okay, I see a few. No need to be shy. Okay, a few nods instead of hands, that’ll do.

How many of you can find *so* many other things to do instead of writing? Lots of nodding and smiling.

And when you procrastinate, does ‘that voice’ in your head ask you questions like:

  • Why am I avoiding the inevitable? It has to get done one way or another!
  • Why am I putting this off? Cleaning the grout can wait a few more hours… or days!
  • What’s the matter with me? I don’t feel a cold/headache/illness coming on, but maybe I should rest just in case

Before I even finished the second paragraph (second paragraph) up there, I clicked over to another browser tab, logged into a client’s twitter account, and replied to a “thank you for following” message. And then I went to my email and checked that. I finally came back here to finish this post. The post needs to be written! Why am I dragging my feet? I’m fired up about the topic, what’s my problem?

I’ve had shiny object syndrome since before it involved dust bunnies. I mean, honestly, how crazy is procrastination? It’s like (the definition of) insanity, except instead of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, procrastinators constantly find ways to avoid doing what they want/love/need/have to do knowing full well the task has to be done!

This weekend I unplugged and sorted through some old boxes of ‘stuff’ in order to see what I could toss. I have so many magazines and books that needed to be thinned out.

WritingOnBothSidesOfTheBrainI discovered one book that prompted this post — Writing on Both Sides of the Brain (Amazon link, I’m not an affiliate). Amazingly, it’s still available! The last copyright is 1987 and I know I’ve had it since it was new.

I have a bookmark tucked in at Page 18. (The book has 144 pages). That’s appalling, isn’t it? But it’s not as dark as it seems, I was on my second read through before my morning journaling (the author is a proponent of writing first thing in the morning) became my focus.

The reason I mention the book is because it’s a great combination of instruction and exercise. And Chapter 6 (of 9) is all about turning procrastination around. The chapter title is:  Procrastination: Not Just Around but Behind It.

The first exercise in the chapter is to make a list of ALL the ways you avoid writing. I’ve already listed a few above and more have happened during the writing of this post. The Internet was not a distraction back in 1987 – so imagine how my list today compares to my list from back then!

After creating a list, there are some thoughts and suggestions for analyzing your resistance to writing. Then a couple more exercises. The work is very insightful.

Apparently I forgot my way over the years and need a refresher, so will be spending the next few weeks working through the chapters and exercises in this book again. I’m determined to get procrastination out of my system – it’s so much more productive to simply get a task done than put it off and stress over it not being done yet.

Have you found a cure for procrastination?

I’m hoping membership in the Professional Procrastinator Club goes to zero so we can close the doors and banish the word from our vocabulary. Any reduction in membership will be great, though.


Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She’s always trying new things in order to use her time most effectively – and 2014 will see her combat procrastination once and for all. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Changing My Thought to Change My Result

Lately I’ve been struggling to get the words on the page. I have all the tools at my fingertips, I know what I need to do, but, at least in the last few weeks, I haven’t done it.

I had a discussion about this topic with a woman who attended a class I taught on procrastination. Ironic, isn’t it? I’m teaching others about how to deal with procrastination and I notice that the one thing I do that’s only for myself—writing fiction—is the only thing on my to-do list that’s not getting done.

I’m so much less of a procrastinator than I used to be. I’m so much better at getting things done that are important to me—except my personal writing.

I know why—because of my thinking. I keep thinking that my writing is only for myself. That thought makes me feel defeated, and when I feel defeated my writing goes directly to the bottom of my to-do list (where it promptly falls off the list!)

Everything else I do has some impact on someone else, even if only in a small way. Or that’s what I tell myself.

But I have always wanted (no, longed) to be a writer. To me, that means a fiction writer (even though I really enjoy my nonfiction writing, too!) So I need to change that thought.

I believe if I can change that thought (my fiction writing is only for myself) I will change the way I feel about my writing which will lead me to act differently—in this case, actually get some writing done!

So, what could I think that is as true or truer than my previous thought and gives me a positive emotion?

Here are a few thoughts I’ve come up with:

  • My writing matters to me and my future audience.
  • My writing brings me joy and that’s important.
  • Time spent writing is time invested in myself.

Each one of these thoughts brings up a positive emotion but the one that seems to feel the best is: My writing brings me joy and that’s important.

When I think this thought, I immediately feel a rush of energy and, yes, joy!

Since I happen to believe that having as much joy as possible in my life is a worthy goal, this thought is much more positive for me than my previous thought.

Now, will my new thought change my behavior? I hope so. I will focus on saying this new thought (which I really believe—that’s very important) whenever my old thought about writing arises.

I’ll let you know what comes of it.

How do you get yourself to the page when it’s “only” for you?  

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: is a writer, blogger, life coach, family physician, mother, and stepmother. The writing retreat I went on in January seems like a million years ago, but I know I can get back on track if I can just change my thought and schedule one block of time to write in the next few days. I know if I don’t actually schedule it, I’ll never “find” the time.

Another Way to Deal with Procrastination

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a type of applied psychology that is concerned with human thought, behavior, and communication. It sounds very esoteric, but there are many proven NLP techniques that have helped people in very concrete ways: using NLP techniques, people have eliminated phobias, changed bad habits, relieved stress, dealt with trauma, and built confidence.

I’ve been using NLP techniques on myself and with clients for years, and I recently read a couple of new books on the topic to get ready for a talk I’m giving this week. I started thinking about how I could apply NLP techniques to my writing life. One technique turned out to be extremely helpful.

Would you like to try it?

This exercise is taken from the book, The Essential Guide to Neuro-linguistic Programming, by Tom Hoobyar, and Tom Dotz, with Susan Sanders, but is a technique that Dr. Richard Bandler, one of the founders of NLP, used and taught frequently. You don’t need any special training to do this exercise, just take a few minutes and follow the directions as closely as you can and have fun with it!

Reducing Resistance and Procrastination

I want you to imagine two images. First, think of an image of your favorite thing to do. Remember what it was like to do that favorite thing and what it will be like to do that again. Actually be in that image so you have a vivid feeling of the experience.

Once you’ve got it, put that image (let’s call it Favorite Image) out in front of you a little way off. Then, between that image and you, put the image of a task you’ve been putting off (blog post, anyone?), only see the task as a picture in a magazine—either a photo of yourself doing the task or a drawing of the task. We’ll call that Task Image.

Now, right in the center of the Task Image, make a little pinhole so you can see your Favorite Image that’s behind the task. Notice how the picture is brighter. You can see through it. Open the pinhole a little so you can see that really great thing you want to do. Open it until you get the feeling of the favorite activity. As soon as you get that feeling, hold on to it and start closing the pinhole. If the feeling starts to go away, open it up again until the good feeling gets strong.

Return to these images and practice seeing your Favorite Image through the Task Image as often as you can.

The strategy behind this technique is based on the picture (Favorite Image) that’s behind the task. The task is between you and the thing you want to do. You just open up a little window in the task so you can see through it to the thing you want to do. The window becomes your iris that opens until you begin to get the emotional connection to the thing you love to do, then you very slowly close it down. Your relationship to your task will change. Guaranteed.

I’ve only been using this technique for a week but I definitely feel more peaceful about sitting down to write and I definitely procrastinated less than usual. I’m going to continue to use this technique for a while and see how much more writing I can get done!

Try it and let me know what you think.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, family physician, and mother. I’m using any tool that works to help me become a better writer!





Procrastination Station

There’s a link on the NaNo website that used to take you to Procrastination Station–a page full of things to do when you want to avoid writing your novel.

I’m not sure anyone needs a Procrastination Station–most of us can find plenty of ways to procrastinate without any help from others. At least, I can.

I have noticed that most of the people I know (myself included) tend to have a similar pattern when we have a big task to accomplish, such as writing a 50,000-word novel in one month (yay, NaNo!) or completing a short story. No matter what the task, the pattern of procrastination is the same.

When we procrastinate, not only do we not do the thing we want to (committed to/agreed to/contracted to) do, but we also stop doing anything else enjoyable or fulfilling in our lives.

We tend to “multi-shirk” by watching bad TV or cleaning out a closet. We do the chores we have to do but we don’t allow ourselves to have any fun.

We basically tell ourselves we can’t have fun until the big task is done.

But the more we punish ourselves for not doing the thing we said we’d do, the more we procrastinate.

So, the best way I have found to deal with procrastination is to give myself permission to do the things that bring me joy, even if those things have nothing to do with getting my novel completed (or the blog post written). I find when I allow myself to go running in the park, I’m much more likely to come home and decide to sit down at my computer and get something done on my novel.

When we deprive ourselves of small pleasures because we “have to” get something done, we feel punished and our resistance increases.

If our lives are full of moments of fun, tackling that writing project becomes less stressful.

Any project is more doable when we are living a life of joy and fulfillment, which starts with figuring out what we enjoy.

My list includes things as small as a decaf latte and as important as conversations with my sisters. Other things that feed my soul are playing outside with my son, cooking for my family without any distractions, and reading.

There have been times when I didn’t allow any of these things—either because I created a life when I really didn’t have time for most of these things (can you say “med school?”) or because I simply didn’t give myself permission to do them.

Now I feed my soul as often as possible. And I procrastinate much less. I get my butt in the chair more often, usually with a good cup of coffee to my left and a picture of my son to my right. Such simple pleasures!

What are the things that fill you up? Do you allow yourself small pleasures, even when you are under a deadline?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: is a writer, blogger, life coach, mother, and family physician. I’m behind on NaNo, but I’ve made a start and I know I’ll get there!

I Am My Own Boss, Part 2

Desk          Even though I work alone, I’ve learned how to be my own best boss.

I have some managerial experience. For sixteen years I managed a medical office, and I took good care of my co-workers. It’s taking me about as long to learn how to take good care of myself.

Hands down, praise works best, so I try to appreciate any small step I take toward the larger task at hand – which is drafting a 100,000-word novel. One of the unintended consequences of this practice is that as I’m not just kinder and gentler toward myself, I’m kinder and gentler toward others. If I live long enough, I may actually become a genuinely nice person.

But I must admit that I still have days when I don’t want to sit down by myself to write a book that might never see the light of day. Some days, I’ll do anything to avoid writing, including putting off starting, going off on a tangent, or becoming paralyzed by doubt.

While I could try to turn these problems into an affirmation, “Hey Deb, you’re human!” I’ve found a more effective countermeasure to resistance.

Resistance is what keeps us from accomplishing our goals – from the little ones, like sitting down to write, to the big ones, like finishing a book.

According to nutritionist and writer Linda Spangle, it’s possible to defeat resistance by understanding its components and knowing what to do about them.. Resistance is manifested by Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

Typically, we respond to Fear with Procrastination. (Solitaire, anyone?) The best countermeasure to Procrastination is to Start: open a new solitairedocument and start typing.

We respond to Uncertainty with Distraction. Ever start writing a piece and decide you really need to read War and Peace before you can do a good job? But before you can turn the page, you need to clean the litter box, which reminds you to put laundry detergent on the grocery list and make a dentist appointment for a cleaning six months hence? You get the idea. The best way to counter Distraction is with Focus.

And then there’s Doubt. Three quarters of the way through a draft and you become paralyzed by a needling voice that whispers, “You really think this is any good? Who are you kidding?” Doubt is responsible for countless unfinished stories in untold files around the world. But even Doubt can be defeated. Just Finish.

I have a Post-It above my desk. It says: Start. Focus. Finish.


Essentially, this is another way of saying, “Single Task” – which I wrote about in Part One of this post. And sometimes, I have to go through NAMS before I can Start, Focus, Finish. The more I practice these techniques, the better I get at sitting down, writing, revising, rewriting and returning to my desk day after day in what can be the most satisfying job working for the best boss I’ve ever had: me.

photo: M. Shafer

photo: M. Shafer

   Deborah Lee Luskin is the author of Into the Wilderness, an award-winning novel set in Vermont in 1964.